Impeachment, Russia, Puerto Rico: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the impeachment process as it shifts to the Senate, details of the U.S.-China trade agreement, and an only-in-New-York kerfuffle over toasted bagels.

ImageThe House clerk, Cheryl Johnson, delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate on Wednesday, escorted by the seven impeachment managers.
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The Senate is to begin laying the procedural groundwork for President Trump’s trial today, after the House delivered the articles charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Around noon Eastern, the seven impeachment managers assigned by the House are expected to read the charges aloud in the Senate chamber. Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial, will then administer oaths to all 100 senators binding them to render “impartial justice.” Here’s what to watch for.

What’s next: Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has indicated that the trial will begin in earnest on Tuesday.

Go deeper: “If recent history is any guide, President Trump’s impeachment trial will be an intensely partisan display that will make the polarization of the Clinton era look like a bygone period of political harmony,” our chief Washington correspondent writes.

Related: Lev Parnas, the businessman who played a central role in the campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals, told The Times on Wednesday that the president was fully aware of the effort.

The initial trade deal between the U.S. and China might seem underwhelming at first glance, our senior economics correspondent writes, but:

“If you put aside some of the grandest presidential promises, you can see some ways in which the deal does represent progress toward achieving a more stable relationship between the world’s two largest economies.”

President Trump signed the “Phase 1” deal on Wednesday, after more than two years of tense negotiations and escalating threats. Here’s a look at what it contains (and what it doesn’t).

What’s next: Mr. Trump has moved the deadline for an agreement on Phase 2 of the negotiations to after the November election.

Another angle: The Trump administration has predicted that the agreement and the revised North American trade deal will stimulate the economy. Outside forecasters are less optimistic.


The country’s political order, which has been largely unchanged since the early 1990s, was thrown into uncertainty on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin proposed constitutional changes that could extend his hold on power indefinitely.

As a result, Mr. Putin’s protégé, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, resigned, along with the rest of the government.

Background: Mr. Putin has been in power for 20 years, longer than any Russian leader since Stalin. The Constitution limits a president to two consecutive terms, meaning Mr. Putin, 67, would have to leave office in 2024. But he has dropped hints about keeping his grip on power beyond then.

What’s next: The new prime minister will be Mikhail Mishustin, a virtually unknown technocrat. It’s unclear if the resignations signal a rift in Russia’s political elite or a coordinated plan to reshape the system. Here are six takeaways.

Quotable: “Why has this all happened in a single day?” one Russian reporter asked. “It just means that those in Kremlin know history well: Revolution has to be made swiftly, even if it’s a revolution from above.”


The Massachusetts senator was the candidate to beat in Iowa.

But less than three weeks before the state’s caucuses, interviews with dozens of Democrats there revealed fears that the cost of her ambitious agenda would spook voters in the general election.

At this week’s debate, Ms. Warren offered her most emphatic rebuttal to date about her electability, citing her past successes, the gains made by other women and her determination to unify the party.

Quotable: “I talked to a lot of people today who really, really like you,” a campaign volunteer told Ms. Warren at a recent town hall event. “They might even like you the best. But they are really scared to vote for who they like the best. Because they’re worried that not enough people feel the same way.”

Related: A CNN recording from Tuesday’s debate showed Ms. Warren and Bernie Sanders trading accusations that each had called the other a “liar.”

Shinjiro Koizumi, a politician seen as a possible future prime minister, said on Wednesday that he would step back from his duties to care for his newborn child later this month. He is pictured above with his partner, Christel Takigawa, in August.

On paper, Japan has exceptionally generous paternity leave laws, yet very few men take advantage of them. Our Tokyo bureau chief explains.

Warmer and warmer: 2019 was the second-hottest year on record and closed the warmest decade, U.S. government scientists said.

Snapshot: Above, the 1,758-carat Sewelo, the second-largest rough diamond ever mined, which has been bought by the luxury brand Louis Vuitton for an undisclosed sum. Our chief fashion critic weighed in on the sale.

Overlooked no more: Ana Orantes Ruiz was killed by her abusive husband in 1997. Her death led to major legal overhauls in Spain to protect women from domestic violence. She’s the latest entry in our series about people who didn’t receive obituaries in The Times.

Late-night comedy: After a tense exchange between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, James Corden noted, “I mean, for socialists they’re not very social.”

What we’re answering in the form of a question: J! Archive, a fan-created compilation of more than 380,000 clues from “Jeopardy!” After the show’s “greatest of all time” tournament, it’s a terrific way to test your knowledge against past champions, says Richard Pérez-Peña, an editor in our London newsroom who’s a former contestant himself.

The trees, which have bright orange fruits, are widely seen as harbingers of good fortune. They are often displayed in homes and office lobbies, including The Times’s Asia headquarters in Hong Kong.

Seeing kumquats in Hong Kong before the Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan. 25 this year, reminded your Back Story writer of living in Vietnam, where swarms of motorbike riders deliver the trees.


That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris


Thank you
Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Chris Harcum provided the break from the news. Mike Ives, on the briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach us at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the impeachment trial.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Macaroni shape (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Times readers want to know more than just the news: They want to know why a story is being told, who is telling it and how it came together. That’s one of 10 themes that emerged in our conversations with readers last year.

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